Wednesday, January 30, 2008

n00b home improvement

I just bought my first home this past April. I have great ambitions to fix up my place, but zero experience with this kind of thing. I wanted to share my non-experience for all to mock and deride.

So here's the problem. I want to update all the electrical face plates in my dining room to these nice looking metal ones that I bought at Lowes. But this one pesky outlet is too close to the baseboards and the face plate won't fit.

For anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes in a high school shop class, this is probably as easy as it gets, but for a guy who can't find the on switch on most power tools, I'm thinking to myself, "Damn. This is going to be stupid hard."

Lucky for me there's the internet, and I found some helpful people on a home improvement forum. The best advice I found was to get a grinder and slowly grind down the face plate until it fits. Sounds good, lets do it.

I like buying tools, even ones I have no idea how to use, I think that's just a male instinct. After scrutinizing the reviews on Amazon I settled on a Bosch angle grinder. It sounded like a very versatile tool and everyone who bought one praised it's durability, power, safety features, yada-yada- ya...

I un-boxed it, read the instructions, clamped the face plate down on my $80 plastic work bench, and got to grinding. Oh yeah, I was also wearing a pair of work gloves and some cheap plastic goggles. That's mandatory when using a grinder (according to the manual, anyway).

Wow, that looks like crap. This thing is harder to control than I thought it would be. The only way I'm going to be able to smooth this thing out, is to get up close and personal. But when I try to squat down eye-level with it , little chunks of metal are flying off and impacting with my face. Surprisingly, this is both distracting AND painful. So it's back to Lowes again.

Plan 'B'. This face shield worked a lot better than those lame goggles. With these on I can get down to eye-level and do some detail grinding. Just be prepared for your wife to tease you a bit when your trying to figure out how to put the thing on. By now I'm getting the hang of things, what angle to hold the grinder at, how much pressure to apply, etc.

It's a lot straighter now, but it still probably looks like an amateurish hack job. Unfortunately there is no undo button with this kind of thing. I've decided I can live with it for now. At some point I might go to Lowes, buy another face plate, and try again. For now I'd like to see what kind of comments this can generate. After all, if this was a perfect job, then that would make this post a lot less fun, wouldn't it?

My next project is going to involve a hammer drill, which is another tool that I have zero experience with. That sounds fun and moderately dangerous. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Android Campfire

The android campfire was definitely worth going to. It was much more intimate than I anticipated. There couldn't have been more than 75 people there.

Google takes the campfire term seriously. They had a simulated campfire, and served hot cocoa and smores from inside a tent.

The first hour was a QA session. Developer advocate Dan Morrill fielded the questions. There was a common theme throughout. People don't want to pour resources into the platform, only to see carriers gut out parts of android that might threaten their bottom line. Google hasn't made any such promises. Dan stressed that distributing a crippled platform was very contrary to the spirit of the OHA, and isn't likely to be an issue.

If I ran a big shop and was paying out large gobs of cash, then I would probably be worried too. But as a lonely independent pounding out my applications in my spare time, it costs less to make a leap of faith.

After the QA we broke up and mingled for a couple hours. Developers are natural introverts, so starting up a conversation with a random person is scary. It is well worth it to come out of your shell though. Everyone is very friendly once you break the ice, and you can get valuable feedback about your ideas. That, in my mind, is the whole point of a meeting like this.

A few people were secretive about their android challenge entries, but I took some good advice from Alex Muse, and was completely open. I received a lot of great feedback, and it was very interesting to see what others were working on. Ironically, the people who were the most secretive usually had the worst ideas.

So now I'm looking forward to the code day in Boston, coming up on February 23rd. That will be a good idea to meet even more developers, learn some stuff in a couple workshops, and of course grab more android swag.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Have laptop, will travel...

I've been hard at work on a project for the android developer challenge since December. I hope to submit two entries, but that all depends on how much I can get done in the next month and a half.

A couple days ago, Dan Morrill announced an Android campfire, on the 23rd. I've been looking for an excuse to get my new ogio backpack out of the closet and jump on a plane. It will be fun to visit the googleplex again, chat about my new favorite hobby and see what kinds of cool applications everyone else is working on.

I hang out on #android (freenode) and try to keep up with the developer lists, but I've yet to meet many android developers in my area (DFW). If you are in my area and are doing anything with android, feel free to contact me.